Horror and death metal make for a natural pairing. It is called death metal; there’s not really much ambiguity about it. That brutal death metal is actually a proper subgenre seems like overkill. All death metal is brutal; some just happens to be that much less forgiving or accessible. But even the fun stuff, the catchy stuff, the old-school just-this-side-of-thrash mayhem is consumed with the aesthetic and atmosphere of horror. The adrenaline rush, the comically unrealistic portrayals of splatter violence and gore, the screams of torture and fear—that’s at the heart of a great deal of death metal’s most celebrated albums. Ohio’s Crypt Rot understands this. They’ve doubtless spent plenty of time with the canon: Carcass, Dismember, Obituary, Morbid Angel. They’ve done their death metal homework, and it shows on debut album Embryonic Devils.
Embryonic Devils is set up, thematically, like a vintage slasher film. Between each track is a “Segue” that uses horror sound effects and ominous atmosphere as a bridge between their intense explosions of furious rhythms and harmonized riffs. The intro even features a monstrous voice bellowing, “Welcome to the crypt.” It’s not necessarily scary, not for anyone already immersed in VHS gore or classic death metal; it’s fun, schlocky entertainment value (it’s called Embryonic Devils, for Pete’s sake!), but it lends a certain character to the album that makes it endearing even in their most intense moments. When the guitars do start up and the drums snap out a meat-punching pummel, the thrill only intensifies, whether through the tremolo-picked riffs and menacing gallop of “Chapters of Torment,” the guttural groove of “Scaphist Waste,” or the dual guitar ascension of “Coffin Birth.”
Embryonic Devils has one very specific drawback: At 20 minutes long, it’s barely an album. It’s more like an EP, the segue tracks fleshing it out to 10 tracks even though there are really only five proper songs here. That’s a minor gripe in the scheme of things (the digital price of $6.66 seems both reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances), and while it is a brief offering, it’s also a hell of an introduction to a death metal band that’s presenting something pretty exciting right now. If the complex arrangement, brutally intense ferocity and melodic sensibility of “Internal Organ Feast” are indications of Crypt Rot’s path forward, there’s no question it’ll be one ripe with greater achievements in filth and fear.